"It’s just really exciting because here you have the Obama Presidential Center that’s really going to amplify and shine a light on this in a way that they did with ‘Let’s Move' ”

By Sean Neumann
January 15, 2020 10:02 AM

President Barack Obama‘s presidential center will become the first of its kind to have a public athletic facility.

Thanks in part to a $5 million donation from Nike, the Obamas’ efforts to encourage kids to exercise and play sports will continue through an athletic center at the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center in Chicago. The space will be largely open to the public.

“Anyone will be able to jump into a dance class or join a pickup basketball game,” according to Jorge Casimiro, the Nike Foundation president and chief social and community impact officer.

“It’s just really exciting because here you have the Obama Presidential Center that’s really going to amplify and shine a light on this in a way that they did with ‘Let’s Move,’ ” Casimiro tells PEOPLE. “Another manifestation of it will be at the Obama Presidential Center. It will be the first presidential center that actually has a facility like this — one that’s both athletic and community-focused.”

Former First Lady Michelle Obama‘s “Let’s Move!” campaign was an initiative throughout the Obamas’ time in the White House, combating obesity and pushing kids to exercise each day.

President Obama was an advocate for sports and exercise himself. The noted Chicago White Sox and Chicago Bulls fan was often pictured playing basketball during downtime.

The recreation facility will be built at the presidential center in the Jackson Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. The center’s opening remains pending.

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A render of the Obama Presidential Center.
A render of the Obama Presidential Center.

Back in 2017, when the Obamas first debuted the plans for the Obama Presidential Center, the former president said he wanted to avoid making the facility an “ego trip” and instead use the center as a facility the Chicagoland community could use in the future.

“There are a lot of presidential libraries and I think there is a tendency to think of this as a monument to the past, to think of it as something that is backwards-looking,” President Obama said then, adding, “When Michelle and I started talking about the presidential center, we were really firm that what we want to do was create something for the future.”

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The Obama Center’s presidential library will be the first to ever be fully digitized, according the website. The Obamas have said they have ideas to create play centers and even a hill that children can sled down in the wintertime.

“Michelle always told me she was mad that during the winter she couldn’t sled because there was no hill down here,” President Obama has said of his wife, who grew up on the city’s South Side.

According to Nike, the Obama Presidential Center’s athletic facility will have youth-oriented programming and play areas for kids throughout the campus in order to carry on the “legacy of President Obama’s love of sport and belief in its power to unite.”

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“It’s another manifestation of how sports can transform a community,” Casimiro says. “For the visitors and for the residents, it represents another opportunity to talk about the transformative power of play and sport and it also gives more opportunity to young people and visitors.”